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School Meal Implementation: A Simple Apple, Oranges Comparison

For me, success in implementing the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, in large part has been about communication and leadership.  It’s not just what you present to people, it’s the way you present it and the way you lead them through change.

In the fall of 2012, when the rules were first being implemented, I was the Manager of Nutrition Services for Cañon City Schools in Cañon City, Colorado.  Initially, there was a lot of anxiety among the staff about how we were going to be able to meet the new requirements.

But instead of immediately focusing on what we had to do, we started by focusing on what we had already done.  As we did a side-by-side comparison of what we were already doing in our schools with the new requirements, we found that we weren’t really very far away from meeting them.  All that was needed were small, systematic steps, and each step brought us closer.

In fact, the kids and parents didn’t really notice a change, as we had already been implementing changes on our own. The transition to HHFKA was transparent to them.

I felt this was a very proactive approach.  I really believe that if you bring your passion and positivity to your message, you can effectively address any change.

Students in Cañon City, Colorado, enjoy fruits and vegetables from their "Harvest Bar".

In 2013, I became the Director of Nutrition Services at Littleton Public Schools near Denver, and I have the opportunity to once again work with the staff to meet the requirements of the HHFKA.  Much of the process has been about communication, leadership and building relationships of trust in a new district.

In Littleton, I have continued to convey my passion and positivity to the stakeholders and it has been contagious.  We’ve reached out to educate parents, students, district committees, teachers and administrators.  I am consistently asked the question “How do you get kids to make healthy choices?”  My consistent answer is always, “You give them access to the choices.” In my short time at Littleton, we have made significant progress that continues to support HHKFA and increase the nutritional integrity of our program.  The children now enjoy fresh fruit and vegetable “Harvest Bars” and many scratch-made entrée choices.

In Cañon City, we increased participation by 2 percent in the first year of HHFKA implementation.  In Littleton, we are confident that our new “Fuel To Live and Learn” campaign will be successful in raising student participation.